Friday, February 13, 2009

According To Kurz...Blue Chips

Last week Wednesday I found myself sitting at my computer surfing, while tuned to ESPN on my TV. The date was February 4th, the first Wednesday of the month, better known as College Football National Signing Day. This is a ritual that goes back to my days in high school, when I first recognized the high anticipation and excitement of finding out which school’s each blue-chipper will choose.

But what started off as players just faxing in their letters to the chosen school, has now turned into national media coverage (see Terrell Pryor), internet diaries (Chris Leak), and All-American bowl games where players lay three hats out onto a table to trick the audience (Dre Kirkpatrick). The fact that just the recruiting aspect has gotten so much coverage is crazy to me, but something I do thoroughly enjoy. But after my freshman year in college I started to question the process. Does the number of stars given to an athlete on Rivals really matter? Maybe the sports world has it mixed up. What goes on after the player has chosen a school is more important than everything that happened before the decision.

Exhibit A: Back in 2005 there was a five-star receiver who was labeled the “next Randy Moss”. He was a 6’4”, 190 lbs kid from Tallahassee, Florida. His name was Fred Rouse. Fred attempted to be the first player to jump from high school straight into the pros. Well, we all know that never happened, so he decided to attend Florida State University. One year later he was kicked off the team for breaking into former teammate, Lorenzo Booker’s apartment before deciding to transfer to UTEP. On March 21st of last year UTEP Head Coach, Mike Price announced that Rouse would not be returning for the ‘08-‘09 season. Now, Rouse has landed at Division 1-FCS Texas Southern University.

Exhibit B: With the 40th pick in the second round, the New Orleans Saints selected Indiana University cornerback, Tracy Porter. Tracy came to IU as a two-star recruit, who was later changed to a three-star by Rivals. Not very heralded out of high school, but while in college he recorded 212 tackles, 16 interceptions and became the first player in school history to return a punt, interception and a fumble for a touchdown in his career. In his rookie season Tracy started five games in the NFL before being sidelined with a wrist injury. But more importantly, Tracy Porter graduated the school he originally committed to with a degree.

So while all the media and analysts begin to look at next years’ crop of big time recruits, I think I will be following the development of players such as Bryce Brown (Miami), Manta Te’o (ND), Jelani Jenkins (UF) among many others. I’m interested to see how each of them handle being a small fish in a big pond and how they grow, not only as players but as people. I will be listening for their names in the 2012 NFL Draft.

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